The answer to every scandal in this administration is: The career people did it.
Now it is the career people at the Internal Revenue Service, as The Post reports:
The IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, Lois Lerner, acknowledged at a conference on Friday the actions were wrong and apologized, according to the Associated Press. Lerner said groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status faced additional screening.
She said that between 2010 and 2012, about 75 of these groups were selected for extra screening as part of a broader review of political advocacy organizations that were seeking tax-exempt status. Front-line IRS employees working in the tax-exempt unit in Cincinnati selected groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, she said, as a shorthand because of the proliferation of these groups in recent years. [Emphasis added.]
If you buy that last part, I’ve got a video that started riots in Egypt (and didn’t in Libya) to sell you.
First and foremost, let me say that the administration has now entered the “not since Nixon” phase of its tenure. Talking points scrubbed. A State Department accountability review board that has to be reviewed itself. A politicized Justice Department.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared that, no, an apology is not good enough.
Today’s acknowledgement by the Obama administration that the IRS did in fact target conservative groups in the heat of last year’s national election is not enough. Today, I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views. Last year, amid reports that the Obama administration was using the levers of executive power to harass conservative political groups in Kentucky and elsewhere, I issued a very public warning to the administration that the targeting of private citizens on the basis of their political views would not be tolerated. Today’s apology by the IRS is proof that those concerns were well founded.
My former editor at Commentary, John Podhoretz, adds:
[I]n 2009, COMMENTARY (a non-profit) received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service threatening the revocation of the institution’s standing as a non-profit due to a claim that on our website we had crossed the line in the 2008 election from analysis to explicit advocacy of the candidacy of John McCain for president. (Non-profits are not permitted to endorse candidates.) The charge was false — all we had done was reprint a speech delivered at a COMMENTARY event by then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman in which he had endorsed McCain. . . . The investigation into COMMENTARY came out of the Columbus office.
The degree to which politics has come to predominate on everything from the sequester to national security to the civil rights division and now to the IRS is quite startling. It is a pattern of sublimating everything to partisan politics and electoral advantage. It is not good enough for the administration to investigate itself. We have had too many self-serving investigations already.
As David Anndelman describes, the State Department’s investigations are anything but independent:
On March 28, the [Inspector General’s] office opened its own probe of an Accountability Review Board’s examination of the security lapses before, during and after the actual Benghazi attack. But the IG’s office is itself headed by a career foreign service officer, Harold Geisel, serving in an interim capacity, appointed by the secretary of State (not the president) and never confirmed by the Senate — which raises at least a suggestion of yet another case of State investigating his own.
Peel back the onion and there are even more layers. It seems that Geisel, [Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick] Kennedy [who denied requests for additional security in Benghazi] and a third Foreign Service officer Richard Shinnick all came up through the same “cone” — the management function at State. All are Foreign Service officers, present or former, and all have had some involvement with Benghazi or its aftermath. Shinnick was named a member of the Accountability Review Board, which Geisel and the IG’s office are now investigating.
Are you dizzy yet? Needless to say, it’s not enough, whether in the IRS case or the State Department, to allow members of a discredited administration probe themselves.
Let’s get a select committee or prosecutor with no ties to the administration to look into the latest — and in fact all — of the questions. (Say, what happened to the probe about leaked national security secrets?)
If it really is the career service people in the IRS and elsewhere, it’s odd because we haven’t had an outbreak of such problems since the Nixon era. And if so then hiring throughout government has been poisoned by left-wing politics. It is time to get the facts and let the chips fall where they may. I repeat: Stop blaming the little people, whether in Benghazi, Foggy Bottom or Ohio.
UPDATE (3:45 p.m.): House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced, “The IRS cannot target or intimidate any individual or organization based on their political beliefs. The House will investigate this matter.”